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Who Signs Disability Application if the Patient Can't?

Who Signs Disability Application if the Patient Can't? - Departments & Programs, UW Medical Foundation, Patient Resources, Social Work Services Quick Guide, Social Work Manual, Financial, Social Security


GN 00204.003 Proper Applicant

From Social Security POMS (Program Operating Manuals)

A proper applicant is anyone who has the right to sign a valid application on behalf of himself/herself or on behalf of the claimant. 


  1. Adult Claimants
    1. An adult claimant (age 18 or older in the first month of eligibility) is always a proper applicant regardless of:
      • The type of benefits being claimed; or
      • His/her physical or mental capability.
    2. An adult claimant should always file his/her own application (see GN 00204.003B.1.c.).
    3. An adult claimant need not sign the application if he/she is:
      • Adjudged legally incompetent (see GN 00502.010)
      • Unable to understand what filing for benefits means (see GN 00502.020 to determine if capability development is needed)
      • Physically unable (see GN 00204.003B.4.) or is not available to sign (e.g., out of town due to sickness or death of a family member) and a loss of benefits would result
      • Not yet 22 years old, filing for child's benefits, and an application for child's benefits has been signed by a parent or person standing in place of the parent.

        Note: A court appointed representative or a person who is responsible for the care of the claimant, including a relative, may sign the application when it is not necessary for an adult claimant to sign.
  2. Child Claimants
    1. Usually, the proper applicant for a child claimant is a parent or adult responsible for the child's care (including the manager or principal officer of an institution). See GN 00502.100 ff. for representative payee instructions.
    2. A child claimant between the ages of 15 and 17 years old may be considered as a proper applicant (see GN 00502.070) if he/she:
      • Is not in the care of any person (or institution, in title XVI cases); and
      • Does not have a court appointed representative (e.g., legal guardian, committee, or other legal representative).
  3. Third Parties
    If a claimant or proper applicant is not available to sign the application and a loss of benefits will result, accept an application or written statement showing an intent to claim benefits from a third party and follow the policy guidelines in GN 00204.010B.1. (See SI 00601.015 - SI 00601.020 for the policy on title XVI protective writings.)
    Examples of third parties include, but are not limited to, members of a church, a labor union representative, a veterans' group, senior citizens' association, etc. See SI 00601.030 for procedures on use of the SSA-3462 for an SSI oral inquiry.
  4. Physically Unable To Sign
    1. The claimant is considered to be physically unable to sign an application if his/her physical limitations prevent him/her from:
      • Signing the application
      • Making a mark
      • Signing in a manner that is considered the claimant's normal signature
    2. Examples of situations where claimants may be physically unable to sign include, but are not limited to:
      • An individual who has both arms in traction
      • A burn victim whose hands are totally bandaged and immobilized
      • An individual who has had eye surgery and is temporarily unable to see because his/her eyes are bandaged
      • An individual who is paralyzed and unable to communicate clearly
      • An individual who is comatose
    3. The claimant's physical limitations should be described on a Report of Contact (e.g., RPOC screen).


  1. Applicant Alleges Adult Claimant Adjudged Legally Incompetent
    Develop for a copy of the court order which states that the claimant is legally incompetent. Obtain proof that guardianship has been established (see GN 00502.010B.).
  2. Adult Claimant Physically Cannot Sign or is Unavailable to Sign
    Use the RPOC screen to describe the claimant's physical limitations that make him/her unable to sign the application, and explain the circumstances which prohibit the claimant from being available to sign (e.g., out-of-town due to a family crisis, jury sequestration, etc.).
  3. Applicant Alleges Claimant Cannot Understand
    Develop capability per instructions in GN 00502.020 - GN 00502.070. Add a question to the SSA-787 (Physician's/Medical Officer's Statement or form used in lieu of an SSA-787): “Do you think (Claimant's Name) can understand the meaning of filing for benefits?”
  1. If the physician answers “YES”
    • Contact the applicant to tell him/her that the claimant must sign the application
    • Abate the improper applicant's claim (GN 01010.475)
  2. If the physician answers “NO”
    • Consider appointing a representative payee if the claimant filed and there is a need for a payee based on the SSA-787 or other evidence which shows the claimant is incapable. See GN 00502.020 - GN 00502.070.
    • Notify the claimant that an application was filed for him/her. Allow 10 days for a protest to be filed. If the claimant protests, abate the application filed by the applicant.
    • If the claimant does not respond or protest, adjudicate the application filed by the applicant
    • Initiate full payee development in accordance with GN 00502.100 - GN 00502.107

Note: Always obtain a signed application from the claimant if an SSA-787 (or form in lieu of the SSA-787) is not completed, unless the claimant is currently receiving another benefit via representative payment. Request the claimant to sign the application in such cases only if the applicant signed the original application. If not, use the 10-day protest notice referred to in GN 00204.003C.3.b.

Per discussion with Connie Devault on 1/19/10 she reports that an applicant for SSDI must sign their name or an X if they are at all able to do so. If they are unable to sign, a family member, friend or SW can sign for them. A letter attesting to the fact the patient can't sign with a name or an X should be submitted with the application.